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Safeguarding Your Rights In The Workplace

Terrence Bouvier Robinson

What types of basic labor laws apply to Texas employers?

Employees often have questions about rest periods, breaks and pay. These are serious matters because all employees have specific rights regarding work. When any of the applicable laws are broken, workers may take legal action.

It is important that you understand not only Texas law, but also federal laws and employer rules regarding these matters. Here are a few basic points that all employees should know.

What are child labor laws?

Child labor laws state that only people who are 18 or older can work any hours or jobs for which they are qualified. Children who are 16 or 17 can work any hours they choose but can't hold jobs that include hazardous duties. Children who are 14 or 15 can only work specific non-school hours and can't do hazardous jobs. Additionally, they have limits for the number of hours they can work per day and week. Children under 14 typically can't work for an employer.

What pay should employees expect?

The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which is the same according to federal and state law. If you work more than 40 hours per week, you are entitled to 1.5 times your normal hourly pay for those additional hours. There isn't a way for employers to get around that requirement. Additionally, men and women who do comparable work must be paid the same wages. This includes all forms of compensation, including bonuses, commissions and the value of fringe benefits.

What types of breaks are possible?

There aren't any federal or state laws regarding breaks unless the person works in a hazardous occupation. Of course, there are some exceptions. For example, nursing mothers have to be given reasonable time to express breast milk or nurse their children up to the child's first birthday. This is covered under the health care reform bill that went into effect in 2010.

Some employers might opt to offer smoking breaks or rest breaks. These should be paid and are usually limited to 20 minutes or less. There are also unpaid lunch breaks that last at least 30 minutes and are there for employee to eat. If the worker has to do any work-related duties, the break isn't really a break and the person must be paid.

If your employer has violated any laws, you might choose to explore options to address the situation. You might have to go through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before you can take legal action.

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